Springs School students Colin and Katalina Rodriguez lost their mother, Darcy Rodriguez, in the blink of an eye.Ms. Rodriguez learned in September that she had terminal lung cancer, a diagnosis that came too late for treatment. She quickly arranged for a childhood friend to take care of her son and daughter after her death, which came on October 30.
Colin, 13, and Katalina, 11, now live with Ms. Rodriguez’s friend Carla Gagliotti, who promised she’d take care of the twosome as best as she could. With two children of her own, 16-year-old Catherine and 22-year-old Alec, and a few rescue dogs, Ms. Gagliotti was afraid she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her promise.
But with help from the community, she is now more hopeful.
Amagansett resident Allison Lupo put together a quick fundraiser on November 1 at the website gofundme.com, where, as of Monday, she had raised nearly $12,000 to help feed, clothe and provide for the family. Her original goal was $5,000.
Ms. Lupo, who used to babysit Ms. Rodriguez growing up in Amagansett, said she felt she had to do something when she found out that Colin and Katalina were without their mother. “It was shocking, because no one really knew she was ill, and the next thing we knew she had passed, and there were two kids left behind,” she said. “It all just happened very, very quickly.”
Ms. Lupo, who owns Astro’s Pizza and works as a nurse, said she never expected such an outpouring of compassion from the community.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever raise that amount of money,” she said. “Not only that but people are dropping by saying, ‘What can we do?’ and giving money.”
Ms. Gagliotti, a nurse’s aide and direct care worker for Catholic Guardian Services, said she is overwhelmed.
“It’s just phenomenal,” she said on Monday. “I barely make ends meet. Emotionally, I knew I’d be able to do it. Physically, I’m not in the best of health, but financially … from the very beginning I felt scared that this is unrealistic for me. But now, I feel like I can do it. I don’t feel scared.”
Ms. Gagliotti faced a similar situation in 2009, when she took in two children and their father after her sister-in-law, Alba Ines Gonzalez, died of cancer at age 55. They stayed with Ms. Gagliotti for four years.
Ms. Gagliotti said she had just been thinking about retiring and moving to Florida when fate took her in another direction.
“I felt in my heart that this was the right thing to do,” she said. “I’m going to apply for guardianship.”
Colin and Katalina do have family in East Hampton, but no one is able to take them on full time at the moment, she said. The family members, however, have been visiting with them regularly.
Bob Moss, Ms. Rodriguez’s cousin, said everybody in the family is contributing what they can each month, and that they are extremely grateful for the help from both Ms. Gagliotti and the many donors. “We always knew we lived in a place like this,” he said about the East Hampton community. “Whenever a family or individual is in trouble, the fundraising done is successful because people are generous.” He said the idea is to stabilize the children’s situation and “give them a good shot” going forward.
Mr. Moss said Ms. Rodriguez did the best she could with her children and left a lot of friends behind.
Katalina, who has a “bubbly” personality, and Colin, who is reserved and sweet, according to Ms. Gagliotti, will finish out the year at the Springs School and next year will attend classes in the East Hampton School District.
“I wanted them to stay at Springs, because it’s where they feel very safe and secure,” she said. “The main thing is getting them their own space in the house. There are definitely people who are stepping up to the plate to help. It’s just another reason I made the decision to do it. I feel like I’m going to get help.”
Help can be provided to the family by visiting www.gofundme.com/gktjtk or sending a check to Lucas Rodriguez at 55 Glade Road, East Hampton, NY 11937.